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SACRAMENTO – The issue is pretty simple: Lieber wants to make spanking children age 3 and under a misdemeanor. Offenders could face up to a year in jail or up to a $1,000 fine, though first-time violators would probably only have to attend parenting classes.
Lieber has yet to even introduce a bill, but the mere description of her idea in a Mercury News article this week triggered a hailstorm of reaction — most of it negative, some of it viciously personal. The story appeared to break a Mercury News record for most online feedback — as of Friday afternoon, it had elicited 86 pages of reader comments, along with many, many dozens of e-mails. Some defended spanking; many others said the government has no business telling them how to raise their kids.
“Unreal,” “absurd,” and “idiotic” were some of the gentler adjectives readers used.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger fed the spanking frenzy on Thursday when, responding to questions from the Mercury News, he said he “got smacked about everything” as a child in Austria but has never hit his own kids. Schwarzenegger had doubts about how a spanking ban would be enforced but said Lieber’s idea seems well-intentioned.
Friday afternoon, Lieber was holed up in her office in Mountain View after returning from an interview on CNN. A crew from Good Morning America was camped out in her lobby for hours, waiting to get her on camera. “I’m under siege,” Lieber said, only half-joking.
Much of the media coverage of her bill has been snide or dismissive — with a decided “there go those California kooks again” tone. Still, Lieber said her proposal is getting the kind of public hearing she could have only dreamed of.
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